Monday, September 25, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 6:24-34, for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, "Jesus, our Master"

·         Jesus’ soul searching questions and statements: “cannot serve God and money”  Sets up a choice between two masters, and we can’t have a split love or split loyalty between them. Considering the options, why is it infinitely better to have God as our Master, rather than money? If money is our master, what does it demand of us? We are in a constant pursuit of money, and like an old Lutheran hymn says “earthly wealth is not abiding, like a stream away is gliding” (LSB 732). Money is like a stream of water—it doesn’t stick around for long, and you can hardly hold it in your hands for long. If we are always chasing after money, we will not find happiness, but only the anxieties and worry that Jesus describes here. Money is a poor master—it can only give us more things to worry about. Money can give you cars and houses, but then those things cause us worries too, and they breakdown and cost us more money. The same is true for everything money buys.
·         Jesus, by contrast, is a Master that does not steal away our peace, or enslave us to worry, but rather He teaches us daily to cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. He teaches us true contentment, to know joy and satisfaction in times of plenty, as well as times of want—by finding our peace and satisfaction in Him.
·         When Jesus begins to teach about worry, He starts with the basics that money can buy—food and drink and clothing. Even these disappear with use, or spoil and wear out. But Jesus argues life is much more than these. And we all know this! We did not buy the people who make up our lives—our spouses, children, family and friends, and they have a value far greater than money can measure. Money can’t measure the value of life. Our individual potential, our God-given purpose and how we use our lives to serve others and glorify God—the fact that God has made us living souls, created and redeemed to bear His image. This is all far beyond what money can buy or value. Jesus teaches life is much more than money.
·         Jesus then gives several arguments from the lesser to the greater. He picks three things of small value—the birds, the flowers, and the grass. But every one of them is still cared for by God. They all quickly perish, but God still lovingly provides for them, and it’s amusing to even imagine that these things would worry or stress. They don’t even have the capacity for it. But His point is that we, who are of infinitely greater worth and value to God than birds, lilies, and grass—we who do have the capacity for worry—waste so much time worrying, as if God would care for the little things of creation, but not for us. You are precious to God!
·         So Jesus tells us not to worry. Sadly, we have this capacity for worry, unlike the birds and lilies, and we constantly worry to damaging effect! How many countless hours of our lives are wasted in worrying, when just as Jesus says, we can’t add a single hour to our life by doing it. In fact, we may very well be shortening our lives for all the stress and anxiety we create by worrying! If we personified worry and recognized the fact that worry is actually stealing from us, I wonder if we might be less willing to constantly give in to worry! Worry steals our peace of mind and fills us with countless unrealized fears instead. It steals our health and gives us heart trouble and high blood pressure instead! It steals contentment and gives us greed and jealousy instead. It steals our acceptance of the things we cannot change, and gives us the illusion that our worrying will solve the problem.
·         Our sinful mind is quick to answer—“But there are real dangers, there are natural disasters, there are unexpected deaths, times when money runs out and bills aren’t paid, times when our children make bad choices and we couldn’t change their path or mind”… and on and on. We give all these examples, and say, “What then?” As if to say these things spoke against God’s love or care for us. Yes the world is full of real dangers and disasters—the Bible never pretends otherwise. Jesus even makes it a point to say that people who die in disasters aren’t any more sinful than the rest of us—but we should be warned that life is short and to repent of our sins and be right with God.
·         So yes, the world is full of real dangers and disasters—but No, these are not evidence against God’s love and care for us. But they are evidence of a world that is groaning under the power and decay of sin. They are evidence that the world has gone wrong; far astray from God’s good planning, from His commandments and original purpose. And it’s no exaggeration to say that our human sin wreaks havoc on the world—so that we are constantly made the direct or collateral damage of sinful actions in this world, or are doing it to those whom we sin against intentionally or unintentionally. This world is a broken place. That would seem like a pretty good reason to worry, at least we think so! But Jesus firmly says NO! “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry for itself—sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
·         With all the trouble and uncertainty in the world—and I’m sure we all could make a long list of the uncertainties that face us for tomorrow—big or little, real, exaggerated, or imagined, likely to happen or not—even with all that uncertainty—Jesus says don’t worry! Don’t worry about them today, or tomorrow. Don’t worry about them period! We’ve already seen it does us no good. Instead, put your faith in Jesus, our Master. Don’t bow to money and the soul-sucking demands of that poor slavemaster—Jesus is a Master who gives us freedom and life. He came to earth to bring God’s kingdom, God’s reign, here. Jesus is the invasion of God’s kingdom into this chaotic, sin-filled world, to overthrow the sin and rebellion against God’s kingdom, by dying for our sins on the cross. Consuming that evil on the cross.
·         So when Jesus told us not to worry, about all those things beyond our control, He said “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Look closer. Seek first the kingdom of God.  Jesus made it clear, on several occasions, that with His arrival, He was bringing the kingdom of God among them. Jesus’ miracles, His power over evil; were signs of His kingdom power. Jesus said the crowning sign would be His death and resurrection. So when Jesus’ tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”, it’s not a scavenger hunt or mystery—we don’t have to have a secret map to find it—Jesus is the kingdom of God among us. But what is His righteousness?
·         God’s righteousness is His perfect goodness and holiness. It’s the faithful obedience of Jesus, to the fullest, of all God’s Law. When we stand next to God’s Law, none of us can  stand up as righteous. Nobody makes the cut, meets the minimum requirements, gets a stamp of approval, or is judged innocent in the court of God’s Law. We do not possess that righteousness on our own. But seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Scripture teaches this amazing truth—Jesus gives us His righteousness for free, by faith. Trusting in Jesus, we receive a righteousness that was not our own, but is now ours by faith. He stood up under God’s Law, and was judged pure and innocent, and full of the righteousness, the goodness of God. And when Jesus suffered on the cross, His death purges us of all sin and guilt. So that now, when we stand up, not under the Law, but under Christ, we stand with His full righteousness. Gifted to us, credited to us, not by any works of our own, but by the faith that trusts in Jesus.
·         This is the big picture of life—facing life with Jesus means that our eternal security rests in Him. No matter what may happen to us in this life, God has us taken care of—not by our worrying, not by our works or careful planning, but by the gracious invasion of God’s kingdom into this world, and His pointed rescue of you. God rescues you from sin, to become His child, to become servant to Jesus—not to money, not to worry, or all the poor slavemasters that might lure us on earth. And with the big picture of life taken care of—with God giving you His righteousness in Jesus Christ, there’s no need to sweat the small stuff—no need to fill our lives with anxiety about the uncertainties of life. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.
·         God knows about all the rest, and He’s got it covered. It’s not a promise of a life of ease and wealth, or a life free of trouble—but it is a promise that God will take care of you—and in thick or thin, you don’t need to worry—it won’t even help to worry—so why do it? Rather, take comfort in knowing Jesus, your Master—He is the good Lord and Savior, and our Father knows all we need and well provides it. We trust it boldly, in Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. If “money” is our master, what does it demand of us? What does it give in return? If Jesus is our master, what does He call us to pursue, and what does He give in return? Matthew 6:24, 33.
  2. What does worry steal from us? What does it give to us? What alternative mindset does Jesus give us in these verses? Matthew 6:31-34; Philippians 4:11-13. How could you describe the experience of receiving God’s contentment, in contrast to a life of worry/anxiety?
  3. Jesus’ examples in Matthew 6:25, 31 refer to worry about food, drink, and clothing. While most of us are not today worrying about those basic necessities, what do we worry about instead? How does this demonstrate the truth that increasing wealth doesn’t decrease our worry, as Solomon wrote? Ecclesiastes 5:10-12. What happens to worry instead?
  4. What is the point behind Jesus’ amusing examples of imagining birds sowing grain and storing in barns, or lilies laboring or spinning cloth, or you adding length to your life by worry? Matthew 6:26-32.
  5. Does God’s provision for us mean that we may never face shortages, want, or even unexpected disasters? Do those events contradict God’s care for us, or do they tell us something else about life? Luke 13:1-5; Philippians 4:11-13. Does the loss of things in this life testify to us against God’s love? Job 1:21-22; 2:9-10
  6. Jesus leads us to a superior way to live, in Matthew 6:33. What is it? Jesus indicates during His ministry, that He is the kingdom of God, near to, or come among the people: Matthew 12:28; Luke 17:20-21. How do we come into the realm of Jesus’ working? Romans 10:17. How do we receive His righteousness? Romans 3:21-22, 26. Why is this the greatest source of contentment? Why is Jesus greater than all other masters we might serve?

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